Casinos stay in business because every single game they run has a negative expectation for the player and a positive expectation for the house over
time. Oportunities to beat those odds are extremely few and far between, but some games put the player at much more of a disadvantage than others. Choosing your wagers wisely can whittle the house’s advantage down to a very slim margin and enable you to at least get more playing time and comps out of your money.
Here are the five best bets you’ll find on any casino floor.
1) Live Poker
The only reliable way to remove the house edge at a casino is to take the house out of the equation, and the only place to do that is at a poker table where you’re playing against other gamblers rather than against the house. The casino still gets their cut of this action by setting minimum buy-in amounts and entry fees for tournaments that they host, but that’s often very small changed compared to what skilled and experienced players end up taking from the incompetent “fish” at the table.
The catch with playing live poker at a table is that it requires a complex skill set that takes time to develop and that relatively few people are capable of. Playing poker online can teach you what the statistically correct play is for each hand that you have, but when you get to a live table that’s only part of the equation. In addition to having mastered strategy, you also have to master reading other people’s betting patterns and body language while carefully keeping your own concealed.
If you think you’ve got the chops to play pro-level poker (or at least play well enough to fleece the drunks at the low-stakes tables), it’s best to learn Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha and 7-Card Stud.
2) Sports Betting
Sports betting essentially pits the gambler’s knowledge of the sport against that of the handicappers making the lines and the other bettors. It’s the only form of gambling where each wager isn’t an isolated event and knowledge of prior events can improve the bettor’s chances of winning.
Consistent, successful sports betting requires a long history of familiarity with the sport — it really helps to have played it and to have at least been a fan since childhood. But some amazing things are also being done these days with advanced statistical analysis.
Despite all this knowledge to draw from, the vast majority of people who wager on sports lose much more than they win over the long run. Aside from sports knowledge, you’ll also need money management skills and enough discipline to not blow winnings on other casino games.
Professional sports bettors who manage to do it for a living tend to gravitate toward baseball and hockey rather than football and basketball, and college sports are especially popular among the true pros as there’s less competition with in-depth knowledge of the teams and players.
3) Bet The Pass and the Odds in Craps
Craps in general offers poor odds, but there’s one particular bet that has no house edge whatsoever. Taking “The Odds” is a form of side bet that can be taken after the point is set. The bet is simply that the point will come out before a seven does, and since it’s just one number against another, there’s an equal probability for each. It’s also appealing because it’s the only wager on this list that requires no learning or skill whatsoever. You’ll usually have to first bet the Pass line, which should be done before a player’s initial (“come out”) roll, but the house edge on that is also fairly low.
There’s a couple important things to consider when making this wager, however. If you’re playing for comps, casinos almost never give them for this wager. They also have caps on the amount you can bet, usually a specific multiple of whatever your Pass wager was.
When played with perfect strategy, blackjack gives the house only the tiniest of edges, by far the lowest of any table game. That’s only under what are known as “liberal” rules, however, which are becoming harder and harder to find.
For starters, the table has to be “full pay”, or offer a return of 3 to 2 on a blackjack. Tables are more commonly offering returns of 6 to 5 now, which ups the house edge considerably. The fewer decks there are the better the odds are for the player, as well. Other rules that favor the player are early surrender that against ten, allowing players to double on any number of cards, and allowing players to draw to split aces. Rules should either be posted on the felt of the table or on a sign nearby, and if they aren’t the dealer should be able to tell you.
5) Video Poker: Jacks or Better
Jacks or Better is another game where the house edge is well under one percent when played with perfect strategy. But similar to blackjack, it involves finding the right pay table, or the amount of money returned to you with each successful hand.
Pay tables are generally read by what they return on a full house, a flush and a straight, in that order. 9/6/4 is considered “full pay”, or having the lowest house edge, and anything more than that would actually give the player a small advantage. Other types of video poker will offer higher returns than these, but they make up for it with lower returns on smaller wins, leading to better odds for the house overall. Stick to basic Jacks or Better where a pair of face cards returns your bet and two pairs doubles your money.